In 2014, the Columbus Dispatch published a five-part investigative report highlighting guardianship abuse in Ohio. During the course of the series, the Dispatch identified lawyer Paul S. Kormanik as a Court appointed guardian of over 400 incompetent adults. Mr. Kormanik did not meet with his wards on a regular basis, if at all, and was quoted as saying that nursing homes acted as his eyes and ears.
The series “Unguarded” uncovered a system that left the elderly, the mentally disabled, and the mentally ill vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and neglect. In response to the series, the Ohio Supreme Court initiated new rules governing adult guardianships, effective June 1, 2015.
The new rules reinforce the importance of the guardian/ward relationship and place additional requirements on guardians. To be appointed, an individual must complete the application process established by the local court where the guardian intends to serve, undergo a criminal background check, and meet with the proposed ward. Once appointed, a Guardian must meet with the ward at least quarterly – a minimum requirement since Guardians are encouraged to visit their wards on a much more frequent basis.
Guardians of adults are now required to take a free one-time fundamentals course and complete a three-hour continuing education course in each of the following years that they serve. Experienced guardians may be excused for good cause from taking the fundamentals course (see each county’s local rules) but not the continuing education courses. Guardians may register for these courses online at Judicial eCademy, on their local Probate Court website, or by calling the Judicial College at 614-387-9445.
Guardians are also required to prepare an annual plan stating goals for the ward’s personal and financial needs. The annual plan is separate from the biannual Guardian’s Report and underscores the importance of guardians knowing their wards and advocating for their best interests. Choosing the right Guardian or attorney for a Guardian can make all the difference in ensuring that vulnerable wards are protected and have every opportunity to thrive.
Paul S. Kormanik lost his law license and was subsequently convicted of multiple counts of theft from an elderly person. His wards were transferred to other guardians who act under the new rules designed to eliminate abuse, exploitation, and neglect of our most vulnerable citizens.